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Eco conscious – what does it really mean? Due to various factors such as global warming, climate change, or industrial pollution, a good part of today’s population has been changing their habits towards more environmentally conscious ways of living.
The same could be true about Industries that, whether to comply with local legislation or some other motives, have turned to more sustainable means of production.
But what are these Eco-Conscious, Eco-Friendly (or Green) ways of living everyone keeps talking about? Stick with us as we explain what each term means, as well as its implications.
Eco conscious vs Eco friendly, and other similar terms
There is a tendency (mainly for Marketing purposes) to carelessly mix the terms Eco-conscious and Eco-friendly, ignoring that one is not akin to the other.
It is also important to clarify that, although both terms denote a certain degree of awareness towards the environment and Social responsibility, there are some variances in their meanings.
- Eco-friendly: According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term Eco-friendly speaks of something that is not environmentally harmful, which in itself is a somewhat vague term.
Keep in mind that this term applies better when referring to activities rather than to production processes or a determined way of living.
- Eco-conscious: when we look at the same source, Eco-conscious is defined as marked by or showing concern for the environment.
Note that this is a broader term, which can be indistinctly applied to either Industrial means of production as well as personal, environmentally aware ways of living.
Sustainability is another widely used term (it has even been adopted by the United Nations) that defines an action or item that generates benefits without harming the environment.
This definition is so precise that it even sets the scope on the future, referring to various social or economic activities that allow future generations to meet their needs.
Green has become the most used word when referring to any product or activity that benefits the environment, often used when referring to all of the previous terms.
But its regular use also makes people incur some unwilling mistakes because sustainability may refer to green products and Eco-friendly activities. But the term green does not automatically imply sustainability
For example, something made of recycled/renewable resources is a “green” product. But, if its manufacturing and shipping demand a lot of energy, it will not be considered a sustainable process.
Zero Waste is the act of conserving or recovering all resources. Living a zero-waste lifestyle aims to send nothing into landfill. It’s about reducing consumption of products / food / energy / water etc… reusing items as much as you can and composting or recycling what you cannot reuse. Recycling should always be the final step after reducing and reusing.
Although recycling is much better than manufacturing new plastics / paper / metals and other materials, it can take up a lot of energy to sort, clean breakdown and remake things and this is often done overseas.
Eco Conscious Companies – Businesses and Brands
Now that we are familiar with the general terminology is time to dig deeper into some aspects that might help a business be included in the “Eco-conscious” category.
As the name implies, Ethical refers to paying respect and consideration to some basic principles and fundamental concepts that act as the basis of decent human conduct.
Because ethical businesses are generally based on social/environmental responsibility, their employees usually have fair wages and favorable working environments.
Their supply chains tend to be transparent, mainly because it is aimed at reducing its negative impact. Both on the environment as on the general population.
The downside of this is that just as with sustainability, the term “Ethical” represents a broad concept, with different meanings to people from different backgrounds or with different values.
This term refers to those goods (generally food or “artisan” products), which have been made, crafted, or grown, involving minimal industrial processes, and then sold around a specific area. The fact that they are less processed helps to considerably lower the production of carbon emissions.
Also, as with many terms in this article, not having a standard definition of what qualifies as a “local” business causes it to be kind of open to interpretation.
When speaking of handmade products, we refer to all those goods crafted almost entirely from hands and tools by skilled workers, with minimal machinery or automated processes.
One of the main traits of handmade products is their quality. Which is generally far better than their mass-produced counterparts.
Although the term handmade or “artisan” suggests that no industrial means of production are involved, it does not automatically imply that all artisan businesses are sustainable.
We might all agree that the term “natural” refers to all those products that originated from nature or whose ingredients are derived from it.
Because of this ambiguity, it has been extensively used by all kinds of businesses but. Due to its lack of legal standards, it might lead to consumers receiving misleading information.
This situation is much less present when speaking of “Fair Trade” or “Certified Organic” products, as these have to meet quality standards and comply with their respective legislations.
For a product to be considered organic, its materials/ingredients must come from farms whose practices avoid the use of synthetic chemicals, growth promoters, hormones, or artificial fertilizers among their farming practices.
Organic means of production must provide animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and a healthy working environment for their employees. While maintaining and improving the quality of its land and water sources.
Organic certification is generally administrated by government agencies. These may be applied at any level in the supply chain ranging from farmers to clothing manufacturers, restaurants, and seed suppliers.
Fair Trade refers to the movement and organizations that work for better working conditions and stable crop prices for farmers around the world
On the other hand, Fairtrade is a rather specific term. This can only be used by farmers whose products have been certified by an international organization such as the Fair Trade Federation.
Aside from ensuring farmers get paid a minimum Fairtrade Price, this certification allows the consumer to identify those products that meet internationally established quality standards.
For products to carry the “Fairtrade” mark, they must be audited through their supply chain by independent agencies.
This system allows not only that the benefits of Fairtrade are received by farmers but also for the final consumers to be well-informed of the nature of said benefits.
As a final note, you must know that many countries lack regulations on packaging labels. Because of this, businesses might use the term “Organic” without any certifications.
And, while this does not necessarily mean a product does not meet quality standards, there have been cases of “greenwashing” complaints from customers.
So, for the sake of consumer trust and to ensure business transparency, the best course of action is to apply for the appropriate certification of your organic products.
What is eco conscious packaging?
Eco conscious packaging is often made using recycled, recyclable, or sustainable materials through manufacturing processes that use low energy consumption. When buying products try to choose items with minimal or no packaging or that is made from materials that are recycled, easily recyclable or home compostable. Try to avoid plastic where you can and buy from eco conscious companies that are continually trying to take steps to reduce their impact on the environment.
What are Eco-conscious consumers?
We have already pointed out many of the major traits that define an Eco-conscious business. But what about the consumers?
It can be said that Eco-conscious consumers are all those people that pay real attention to what they buy, where they buy it, and from who are they buying it.
This type of consumer, generally do some research and check many labels before purchasing a new product. Usually, this will be from a brand that practices sustainable production processes.
How can I be more environmentally conscious?
So, you feel identified and would like to become part of this increasingly popular and wholesome trend? The best way to start is to take a good look at your daily habits.
After reflecting upon it, you might realize that you are unknowingly consuming more natural resources or contributing more than you thought to the pollution of our planet.
Of course, there are a lot more (and bigger) things damaging our planet. But just doing your part in healing the environment is a small but well-appreciated step forward.
Recycling and conscious waste-managing
- Stop buying single-use bags, bottles, and dinnerware, as most of these items end up either in landfills or polluting the environment.
- Use multi-compartment trash bins to separately collect waste. Organic residues can be used for compost, while metals, paper, and plastic can be recycled and reused.
- Be especially cautious with your electronic waste. As these require special processing, this must be done to avoid leaching of chemicals and toxins.
Do not waste any more food
- According to the S Department of Agriculture, up to 40% of the total food in the U.S. (which could help those facing hunger) ends up wasted at retail or consumer levels.
- Aside from being a waste of money, keep in mind that whenever you throw away food. You are also throwing away the time, labor, land, and water used to produce it.
- Avoid purchasing more food than you can eat in a certain amount of time and move food to the freezer if you cannot eat it before it expires.
Eco conscious clothing
- Before buying new clothes, always ask yourself first. Will I wear it often? If the answer is yes, then buy it.
You might find it difficult to believe how many of the clothes we buy, we actually end up wearing less than 30 times.
- Avoid the urge to buy that show-stopper piece of clothing that you already know you will be wearing one time only, and go for something more versatile instead.
- Opt for pieces that you can wear in many different ways, thus using them again and again. This prevents them from going out of fashion and extends the longevity of your wardrobe.
- Vintage and second-hand clothing also represent a valid option when putting together a more Eco-conscious wardrobe. There is a wide variety of second-hand stores, both physical and online.
Some of the best designers even have their own resale sites, where you can get many of their original pieces for a fraction of the initial price.
Eco conscious household products and toiletries
- By switching to using eco-conscious toiletries and household products made from eco-friendly and plastic-free or recycled materials, you are well on your way to reducing your pollution footprint on the planet.
- Because they are made from recyclable or biodegradable materials, eco-conscious toiletries do less harm to our environment and help preserve natural resources.
- Among the essential items that you might want to get to start transitioning to this alternative, eco-conscious lifestyle is a wooden comb, bamboo toothbrush, and biodegradable cotton swabs.
- Try switching to washable face wipes, eco-friendly loofah, or cellulose sponge, and, for the ladies, there are even organic tampons, washable sanitary pads, the ever-popular menstrual cup or period panties. You can even get washable toilet paper! And if that sounds a little too ‘eco’ for you, then try just sourcing toilet paper made from recycled materials in plastic-free packaging.
- For your dental care, there are now quite a few plastic-free options including toothpaste tablets, natural mouthwashes, and plant-based floss. These solve the issue of hard-to-dispose toothpaste tubes and there’s often a lot less waste too!
- For skin and hair care, there are some great choices. Solid shampoo and conditioner bars are plastic free and often last longer than bottled products, and a great bonus is they’re great for travelling! Shea butter or coconut oil can be used as a makeup remover and cleanser as well as being great moisturizers for dry skin. And for your hands and body, don’t forget the power of a good old bar of soap, there are so many beautiful kinds now-a-days, why not see if you have a local soap maker nearby. There are also many types of eco conscious deodorant, although it may take a bit of trial and error to find the one that works best for you!
In conclusion, by consciously taking charge of the type and quality of products we consume and the amounts of non-recyclable waste we produce. We are indeed doing our part.
After all, Earth is our home, and it is our responsibility to do everything within our reach to keep it as clean as we can.
Remember, conscious buying and consuming, coupled with eco-conscious waste management, is the way to a cleaner, sustainable way of living.
Keep this in mind because the time to act is now.
If you’ve found this article useful you may be interested in finding out how to grow your own fragrant plants – see our article here about top tips for growing lavender from seed.
If you have any questions, suggestions or comments please contact me 🙂